Immigration in Albania since 1990

Although inflows of migrants are almost negligible they are becoming the focus of attention for some government agencies under pressure from the EU. Adequate data are lacking for most years, and what exists is patchy and at times contradictory. For example, the World Bank reports total stocks of around 90,000 by 2010, the equivalent of 2.8 percent of Albania's resident population. More than half of these are women with top source countries being Greece, Macedonia, the Czech Republic, Israel, Italy, and Russia.[1] The picture is more nuanced when we look at data derived from MoI databases.[2] Table 6 gives a snapshot of selected figures of permits given to foreign residents by citizenship during 2006-10, while table 7 gives a break-down of these permits by main types.

Table 6: Foreign residents in Albania by country of citizenship, 2006-10
Source: MoI data in GoA (2010: 30-31)
Note: Numbers of Rumanians and Bulgarians are counted in the EU totals only from 2007.
Europe1,749 2,894 4,298 5,007 4,114 
Other EU272 368 410 487 592 
Rest of Europe328 276 370 439 521 
Asia & Middle East751 498 820 1,047 733 
Americas491 547 557 579 621 
Africa & Oceania12041474137216021893

Table 7: Types of permits given to foreign residents in Albania, 2006-10
Source: MoI data in GoA (2010: 29-32)
Family reunification288949412555106229.297717.3
Asylum seekers340.1320.8310.5350.5420.8
Other0 0 0 831.23135.5
The tables show the following. First, the issuance of residence permits has been generally – although slightly – increasing over the years. Second, the vast majority of these permits are issued for employment reasons, peaking in 2009. Family reunification has remained constant throughout these years at around 10 percent, only to jump to over 17 percent in 2010. Asylum permits have remained low.

The third feature is the geographical spread of origin countries. The data clearly show Turkey's dominance, with the Chinese and Italians competing for second place, followed closely by US citizens. The fourth feature is their geographical location within Albania, namely a concentration in the Durrës-Tirana conurbation with an average of around 84 percent of migrants with a residence permit registered as living there.[3] Equally, more than half of work permits issued in 2010 were for applicants based in the capital.[4] Finally, the vast majority of immigrants are men – with women constituting on average a quarter of total immigrants during 2006-10 – most of whom are in the working-age bracket.[5]

When combining types of permits issued with country of origin, age and gender the following picture emerges: there is a dominance of Turkish men in the working-age bracket with residence permits. This is related to two factors: first, the visa-free regime between Albania and Turkey, which started in 1992, facilitates in-migration and secondly the awarding of large-scale contracts in the country's infrastructure to Turkish companies, which in turn employ Turkish citizens, such as in the construction of the Durrës-Kukës motorway.[6] The Chinese, on the other hand, are mainly self-employed in their own shops and employed in those owned by their co-ethnics, primarily trading in Tirana. Interesting to note is the presence of Filipinas who are employed as domestic workers by foreign professionals or consular staff stationed in Albania and by Albanian affluent families who consider them as a status symbol.
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World Bank (2011), p. 45.
GoA (2010). This is the most recent document providing statistics from the Albanian government on immigration, including asylum and refugees. A note of caution: there is a discrepancy in the data provided within the same document, and at times even within the same table. Years 2009 and 2010 in Tables 3 and 4 earlier, and year 2010 in Tables 6 and 7 are illustrative. Moreover, this data can differ significantly from those provided by international organizations, such as UNHCR (for refugees and asylum seekers) or the World Bank.
GoA (2010), p. 29-30, 44.
GoA (2010), pp. 19.
GoA (2010), p. 29-30.
GoA (2010), p. 44.

Julie Vullnetari

Julie Vullnetari

Julie Vullnetari is post-doctoral researcher at the Sussex Centre for Migration Research, School of Global Studies of the University of Sussex in the UK. Email: jvullnetari@gmail.com

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